Book Explores Kew Gardens History

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

A book telling the story of Kew Gardens’ past and present will hit bookshelves later this month.

“Images of America: Kew Gardens” is the culmination of two years worth of work done by Queens historian Carl Ballenas, who has authored two other books in that series, which covered Richmond Hill and Jamaica.

Ballenas, along with students from the honor society of the Immaculate Conception School, culled through thousands of photos and researched for many hours to tell a comprehensive history of the central Queens neighborhood, adjacent to Forest Hills.

“Images of America: Kew Gardens,” by Carl Ballenas.

“Images of America: Kew Gardens,” by Carl Ballenas.

Ballenas said Kew Gardens has changed immensely over the years, mainly due to the development of the neighborhood. Many people moved into the neighborhood as other areas closer to Manhattan became too expensive to live in.
“It’s definitely grown up from its beginning,” he said.

The book has a photo of the first ever apartment complex building in Kew Gardens on Metropolitan Avenue.

The children in his class played a large role in putting the book together, Ballenas said. Each of his students was given about three pages to work on for the book. They were in charge of doing the research and helping their teacher write what would be the caption for each photo in the book.

Ballenas said this gave them a “terrific opportunity” to learn about the roots of their neighborhood.

“You have to find your roots, you have to know where you come from,” he said. “You’re creating children who will appreciate their history.”
The infamous murder of Kitty Genovese is also mentioned in the book.

Ballenas said they were very careful with what they wrote regarding the incident because there are conflicting reports about what occurred that night, including how many witnesses there were to the murder.

“It was a black eye for Kew Gardens and its still hanging over the area today,” he said.

In light of a new book that goes in-depth about the incident, Ballenas said it offers people a chance reevaluate the facts of the murder and get a new perspective about what happened that night.

As for his book, Ballenas said his goal was to tell the story of Kew Gardens’ past and present as accurately as possible.

Ballenas said there are no future books on the horizon for himself but he is not ruling out compiling another book in the future.

“Images of America: Kew Gardens” will be available on Feb. 24 at the cost of $21.99. You can purchase the book online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.